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Three High-End Liquid-Cooling Cases Compared

Tom’s Hardware’s Liquid-Cooled Case

Our System Builder Marathons have always focused on getting the best configurations within three pre-set price limits while using components that can be assembled by nearly anyone with a screwdriver and minimal experience. In other words, we assume the role of “average builders” with different budgets. We were especially proud of the case and cooling combo of our March and June high-performance builds :

ComponentPart NumberPrice
CaseSilverstone TJ09B$240
CPU Cooling KitSwiftech H20-120120
Additional RadiatorSwiftech MCR22036
Radiator BracketsSST-RADSUPPORT0915
Nozzles2x BSPP-250-375-CP5
Neoprene Tubing2x Swiftech 3/826
Hose Clamps2x ex-tub-1352
Radiator Fans2x S-FLEX SFF21E30
Component FansAntec Spotcool15
Total Price$489

Cooling components were carefully chosen to resemble a custom-manufactured assembly, but without the need to cut, drill, or otherwise custom-manufacture anything. A lower price compared to pre-assembled kits reflects how we didn’t have to pay anyone to modify a case for us, but assembling the components required much more effort than any pre-assembled kit.

We started with the Silverstone TJ09B case, which has a centrally located 120 mm intake fan and supports two 120 mm lid-mounted exhaust fans perfectly suited for holding radiators out of the way from other components.

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The liquid cooling kit also began simply as the single-radiator Swiftech H20-120. Swiftech provided a second radiator, the dual-fan MCR220, and a few accessories.

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Silverstone supplied its SST-RADSUPPORT09 brackets, which allow mounting a 2x 120 mm radiator in the top of its TJ09 and TJ10 cases without drilling holes. We attached them to the radiator, added two Scythe S-Flex low-noise fans, and raised the assembly into place.

The TJ09 case has a unique intake fan location, which was perfect for adding the smaller radiator. Radiator installation required removal and dis-assembly of the intake fan baffle, which is detailed on pages eight and nine of this configuration’s March debut.

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We installed the motherboard for a test fit, trimmed the hoses to length, and removed the motherboard again. Purging air from the system required dropping the upper radiator below the reservoir of the lower radiator.

Estimated noise for our custom-picked assembly, based on the number and type of fans, is 28 db. The Temjin TJ09 provided mediocre noise isolation for internal components such as air-cooled graphics card fans.

  • or buy a cheap case... mod it with a 50 $ dremel... and then add your own watercooling setup and get much better cooling performance...

    thats what i'm going to do... not buy some case w/ water cooling.... unless its like a modded lian-li case... but those are like 800 bucks... so no thanks
    Reply
  • nerrawg
    Whoa the 4870 is still a pretty hot one even with that massive Koolance radiator. I wonder if that can be improved using a custom build with 2 separate loops and radiators - would be a bit more hassle though. Also be interesting to see how it compares to a 4870 X2 - my first assumption would be the X2 is hotter but that might not be the case as there could be a larger flow and surface area to allow for more heat dissipation. If your talking W/C for silent running, then custom built systems with big passive radiators (Toyota anyone?) and a good pump or 2 has to be the only true solution. Otherwise you're just running fans like an air cooling rig and the name of the game is still who has the quietest one..
    Reply
  • yadge
    nerrawgWhoa the 4870 is still a pretty hot one even with that massive Koolance radiator. I wonder if that can be improved using a custom build with 2 separate loops and radiators - would be a bit more hassle though. Also be interesting to see how it compares to a 4870 X2 - my first assumption would be the X2 is hotter but that might not be the case as there could be a larger flow and surface area to allow for more heat dissipation. If your talking W/C for silent running, then custom built systems with big passive radiators (Toyota anyone?) and a good pump or 2 has to be the only true solution. Otherwise you're just running fans like an air cooling rig and the name of the game is still who has the quietest one..
    I'm pretty sure the videocards weren't water cooled.
    Reply
  • randomizer
    thogromor buy a cheap case...Yea but alot of cheap cases are fugly.
    Reply
  • nerrawg
    Hehe whoops you're right - I guess I should have looked at the pics - no wonder it was so hot. Don't understand why they didn't use some splitters and cool 4870beast #1. Can't see how you can complain about noise and temp when you're not even using your full 750-1000W water cooling capasity. Also good eye editor on changing frames per sec to temperature celsius on graph X axis.
    Reply
  • gaiden
    nice info, though i'm not sure, as hardware gets smaller - lesser heat, would i need a water-cooled setup. personally i think fan setup with a top of the line HS would do plenty. the TJ-09 and Lian Li's are very well built - i have a 7 fan setup + IFX-14 in a lian li 2100 plus II cant hear anything at all. (though it really helps to get good fans :) for GPU's there are several 'spot-cooler' options. overall 7-8 'good' fans + 1 'awesome' cooler would cost only less than 1/2 of the $500 TH spent on water-cooled solution, and the air-cooled should improve air movement inside the case as well.
    Reply
  • stoner133
    I find it strange that the video card temps are so high, I run a Koolance system and using their waterblocks on both of my 4870's in crossfire my temps never get above 42c after hours of playing Crysis and my coolent reaches the GPU's after it goes thru the CPU waterblock. The two degree temp difference does happen, AOD does show the first card at 40c while the second is 42c.
    Reply
  • stoner133
    thogromor buy a cheap case... mod it with a 50 $ dremelhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dremel ... and then add your own watercooling setup and get much better cooling performance... thats what i'm going to do... not buy some case w/ water cooling.... unless its like a modded lian-lihttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lian_Li case... but those are like 800 bucks... so no thanksThe Koolance cases are modded Lian Li cases and there no where near $800, they start at just under $400 and go to just over $600
    Reply
  • Shadow703793
    They could have silver plated the Koolance CPU-340 block instead of gold plating it (silver > than gold in heat transfer).

    These kits are worth an entire PC so imo, I would mod it my self. It's not that hard to do, providing you have the time to do it.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    9463632 said:
    The Koolance cases are modded Lian Li cases and there no where near $800, they start at just under $400 and go to just over $600

    The case with no pump, water block, or reservoir is $400, but what do you do without the parts? A basic liquid cooling kit from Koolance, complete with only the needed parts, starts at around $600.

    Also notice:

    Test Configuration
    Liquid cooling often offers excellent cooling capacity, but that wouldn’t matter much if hot case air destabilized another part of the system. In order to test both, we used an overclockedhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overclocking Intel Core 2 Quad processor to heat the liquid and a pair of HD 4870http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radeon_R700 X2 graphics cards to heat the air.

    Graphics was left air-cooled to help determine effectiveness of case airflow. It would have been even better to use two 4850's for that, since they don't vent outside the case.
    Reply